Slave Narrative of Emmett Beal

Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person Interviewed: Emmett Beal
Age: 78
Location: Biscoe, Arkansas

“I was born in Holloman County, Bolivar, Tennessee. Master Dr. Jim May owned my set er folks. He had two girls and two boys. I reckon he had a wife but I don’t recollect seeing her. Ma suckled me; William May with me. Ely and Seley and Susie was his children.

“I churned for mama in slavery. She tied a cloth around the top so no flies get in. I better hadn’t let no fly get in the churn. She take me out to a peach tree and learn me how to keep the flies outen the churn next time.

“Mama was Dr. May’s cook. We et out the dishes but I don’t know how all of ’em done their eating. They eat at their houses. Dr. May had a good size bunch of hands, not a big crowd. We had straw beds. Made new ones every summer. In that country they didn’t ‘low you to beat yo’ hands up. I heard my folks say that more’n one time.

“Dr. May come tole ’em it was freedom. They could get land and stay—all ‘at wanted to. All his old ones kept on wid him. They sharecropped and some of them got a third. I recollect him and worked for him.

“The Ku Klux didn’t bother none of us. Dr. May wouldn’t ‘low them on his place.

“Mama come out here in 1880. I figured there better land out here and I followed her in 1881. We paid our own ways. Seem like the owners ought to give the slaves something but seem like they was mad ’cause they set us free. Ma was named Viney May and pa, Nick May.

“Pa and four or five brothers was sold in Memphis. He never seen his brothers no more. They come to Arkansas.

“Pa and Dr. May went to war. The Yankees drafted pa and he come back to Dr. May after he fit. He got his lip split open in the War. Dr. May come home and worked his slaves. He didn’t stay long in war.

“I reckon they had plenty to eat at home. They didn’t run to the stores every day ’bout starved to death like I has to do now. Ma said they didn’t ‘low the overseers to whoop too much er Dr. May would turn them off.

“Er horse stomped on my foot eight years ago. I didn’t pay it much ‘tention. It didn’t hurt. Blood-p’ison come in it and they took me to the horsepital and my leg had to come off, (at the knee).

“We have to go back to Africa to vote all the ‘lections. Voting brings up more hard feelings.”

Beal, May,

Federal Writers' Project. WPA Slave Narratives. Web. 2007.

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